Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)


French: Tarier pâtre German: Schwarzkehlchen Spanish: Tarabilla común
Other common names: Siberian Stonechat (maurus), Stejneger's Stonechat (stejnegeri)

Muscicapa torquata


, 1766,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Much apparent paraphyly with S. tectes, S. dacotiae and S. leucurus#R#R, prompting some to split present species, as here constituted, into at least three (and perhaps five) species. Has been treated as conspecific with S. leucurus. Genetic analyses#R#R and supposed sympatric occurrence of two taxa have triggered widespread (but not complete#R) acceptance this century that at least three species exist within present complex (with a further suggestion that race stejnegeri merits monotypic species rank#R), but evidence still relatively poor#R. Molecular work used mtDNA, did not sample all taxa and did not replicate closely, while the issue of what happens where races rubicola and variegatus (formerly called armenicus) meet in Turkey is unclear#R and requires detailed research. Moreover, plumage differences between proposed species can be very slight, as in the case of maurus and stejnegeri#R and rubicola and maurus#R; indeed, birds on Sicily included in rubicola, but most closely resemble maurus (hence a challenge to splitting the latter), and have been named archimedes. Evidence is accumulating that the morphologically rather distinctive S. dacotiae and S. tectes might be subsumed within present species, chiefly on genetic grounds, although until there is a fully comprehensive review of all taxa this move appears inadvisable; race sibilla also speculated as a possible species#R while the relatively distinctive highland race albofasciatus has been mentioned in passing as an additional species#R. Further splitting could be argued for, e.g. in the case of rather distinct and apparently parapatrically abutting forms indicus and przewalskii; on the other hand, variation also exists within races, and several taxa may be unworthy of recognition while others may deserve reinstatement. Races adamauae (N & W Cameroon) and pallidigula (Mt Cameroon and Bioko) are treated as synonyms of salax, and altivagus is included in promiscuus. Racial affiliation of population recently found breeding in NW Thailand unknown. Twenty-four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. t. hibernans (E. J. O. Hartert, 1910) – Ireland, Britain, NW France (Brittany) and W Iberian coast; has bred in SW Norway.
  • S. t. rubicola (Linnaeus, 1766) – European Stonechat – W, C & S Europe and NW Africa E to SW Russia (R Don) and N Turkey; non-breeding also N Africa E to Middle East.
  • S. t. hemprichii Ehrenberg, 1833 – E Ukraine (lower R Don) and E Crimea, E to Kalmykiya plains and NE Volga Delta area, S to N slopes of Caucasus and N Azerbaijan#R; non-breeding NE Africa.
  • S. t. variegatus (S. G. Gmelin, 1774) – NE Turkey, Transcaucasia and NW & SW Iran; status in Azerbaijan unclear#R; non-breeding SW Asia and NE Africa.
  • S. t. maurus (Pallas, 1773) – Eastern Stonechat – N & E European Russia E to Mongolia and E Tien Shan, S to NE Iran, S Turkmenistan and W Pakistan; has bred in E Finland; non-breeding SW & S Asia.
  • S. t. indicus (Blyth, 1847) – Himalayas from Kashmir E to NE India; non-breeding Pakistan and India.
  • S. t. przewalskii (Pleske, 1889) – Tibetan Stonechat – Tibetan Plateau E to C China (NE Qinghai E to Shanxi and W Hubei, S to Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi), S to NE Myanmar and N Indochina; non-breeding N & NE India E to SE China and SE Asia.
  • S. t. stejnegeri (Parrot, 1908) – Japanese Stonechat – C & E Siberia E to Anadyrland, S to E Mongolia, NE China, Korea, Sakhalin, S Kuril Is and Japan (S to C Honshu); non-breeding E & SE Asia (S to Malay Peninsula).
  • S. t. moptanus Bates, 1932 – Senegal Delta, CS Mali (upper R Niger) and SW Niger (inner Niger Delta).
  • S. t. nebularum Bates, 1930 – highlands of Sierra Leone E to W Ivory Coast.
  • S. t. jebelmarrae Lynes, 1920 – WC Sudan (Jebel Marra, Darfur).
  • S. t. salax (J. P. Verreaux & J. B. É. Verreaux, 1851) – E Nigeria S to NW Angola, including Bioko.
  • S. t. felix Bates, 1936 – SW Saudi Arabia (Asir Mts) and W Yemen.
  • S. t. axillaris (Shelley, 1885) – E DRCongo E to Kenya and N & W Tanzania.
  • S. t. stonei Bowen, 1931 – #RSW Tanzania S to S & E Angola, NE Namibia, Botswana and N South Africa.
  • S. t. promiscuus E. J. O. Hartert, 1922 – S Tanzania S to E Zimbabwe and W Mozambique.
  • S. t. torquatus (Linnaeus, 1766) – African Stonechat – South Africa (Northern Province S to SW Western Cape) and W Swaziland.
  • S. t. oreobates Clancey, 1956 – Lesotho highlands.
  • S. t. clanceyi Latimer, 1961 – coastal Western Cape.
  • S. t. voeltzkowi Grote, 1926 – Grand Comoro (Ngazidja), in Comoro Is.
  • S. t. tsaratananae Milon, 1951 – Tsaratanana Massif, in N Madagascar.
  • S. t. ankaratrae Salomonsen, 1934 – Ankaratra Massif and adjacent C part of W savannas, in C Madagascar.
  • S. t. albofasciatus Rüppell, 1840 – #REthiopian Stonechat – extreme S South Sudan, Ethiopian highlands and NE Uganda.
  • S. t. sibilla (Linnaeus, 1766) – Madagascar Stonechat – Madagascar (except N massif and C area).
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 12·5 cm; 13–17 g. Male nominate race has black hood linking down nape to black back (variable brown tips) and wings, with broad white lateral neck patch (... read more


    Song, by male only, a series of phrases each consisting of short gabbled jingling warble, shriller... read more


    Variety of essentially open, usually rather barren landscapes; in E third of range occupies taller... read more

    Food and feeding

    Almost entirely invertebrates, mainly small or medium-sized insects and their larvae; occasionally small vertebrates, seeds and fruit.... read more


    Mar to mid-Aug (mainly Apr to mid-Jul) in NW Europe, end Apr to late Jul from E Europe across Asia to Japan, but from mid-May in N Russia;... read more


    Sedentary, altitudinal migrant, partial migrant and migrant. W of line from Britain to Italy, also... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. European population in mid-1990s estimated at 1,131,865–2,142,344 pairs, with additional 10,000–100,000 pairs in Russia and 10,000–... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2020). Common Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).